The federal government issued a cease-and-desist order last week for a beach-nourishment dredging project off Hillsboro Beach and Deerfield Beach. The order cites a leaky pipe that dumped sand on an area of "hardbottom," or limestone that's home to coral reef. The contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, initially reported the leak to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Weeks earlier, residents had noticed high levels of turbidity, or muddy water, moving along the shoreline. They contacted environmental group Palm Beach County Reef Rescue, which notified
state agencies and finally managed, last Friday, to arrange a surprise visit from a Florida Department of Environmental Protection official to take water samples, according to Reef Rescue director Ed Tichenor.
"The permit violations on this project were blatant and obvious," says Tichenor, citing a complex set of turbidity regulations as well as a stipulation that if a company damages one acre of reef habitat, it must create three acres of artificial reef, which can cost around $1 million per acre.
The leak in question occurred on a 6,000-foot pipe running from the dredge site, an offshore sand deposit, over fragile reef habitat closer to shore, and finally to a deposit site where the sand will be spread onto the eroding beaches.
For its part, the City of Hillsboro Beach has been posting frequent status updates on its website and says it's in discussion with the Army Corps of Engineers about how and when the cease-and-desist order can be lifted. Now, residents say that the dredge that was anchored offshore has been moved.
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